|Kit # 7249||Preview by Doug Chaltry|
in 2004 I wrote an article comparing all of the available kits for
the Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33. At that time, despite
there being eight kits produced over the years for this
most unusual and intriguing vehicle, there still was room
in the market for a new, accurate kit. Of all the
available kits, there was only a single plastic model,
the rest being resin kits or conversions, and each one of
those efforts had either problems with accuracy or
quality (in addition to poor availability, since many of
them are long out of production). So when I saw that MW
had released a new kit of the StuIG 33, I was very
excited to get my hands on one to see how much better
this kit would be, seven years after the most recent
competitive release, that being the plastic kit from
Attack Models. Unfortunately, this new model from MW is a
mixed bag, with some appealing features, and also some
mistakes and serious quality issues.
First of all, it needs to be pointed out that this is a limited-run kit, with all the issues that entails. I've never held it against a kit, being limited-run. Some of my favorite kits come from limited-run manufacturers, and I even held MW in high regard for several of their previous kits. But I must say that this StuIG kit has some problems with molding quality that I found quite off-putting when I first opened the box. Overall the accuracy of the kit is very good, being one of the most accurate kits made of this vehicle, compared to previous efforts. It's up to each modeler to decide how to balance the pros and cons of accuracy versus quality.
I'll start off by looking at each sprue, and then finish with some overall observations and thoughts.
Getting right to the heart of the kit, this first sprue has the main body parts, with the upper hull and the pieces for assembling the fighting compartment. You can see a great amount of variation in molding quality on this sprue alone. The upper hull piece seems to be very nicely molded, with crisp details on the engine deck and very nice hatch hinges. The transmission inspection hatches are the later type with small, double hinges. The engine access hatches are also correct for this vehicle, which means this specific StuIG was converted from either a Stug III Ausf. E or F. While the fenders don't have any tread-plate pattern molded onto them, at least there are no pioneer tools molded on them either, which is fantastic. This piece measures very well to 1/72nd scale in both length and width, according to the drawings in Spielberger's Sturmgeschütz & its Variants. Obviously this kit has a hollow hull and fighting compartment which is a big advantage over resin kits if one wants to add an interior to the model. Some surgery would need to be done to add an engine. There are also two applique armor plates to add to the nose and glacis plates, which is one of the details that the vast majority of other StuIG 33 kits had overlooked, so it's great to see that MW got that right.
But then we get to the fighting compartment, which I find most disappointing. The walls are separate plates, which is pretty cool, because if you wish, one can use them as templates to make replacement walls out of thinner styrene, which is what I will likely do. Concerning their size, the height and width are good, but it measures out a little bit short on the length from the front plate to the rear, being approximately 1.5-2mm short. Whether or not this error would be noticable on the finished model is unlikely, but it's something to be aware of. The quality of these parts is inferior to that of the hull piece I just described. The roof has two raised ridges, which are supposed to be weld lines, and are therefore far too pronounced. The commander's hatch is incorrectly shaped, and sits above the roof plate when closed when in fact, it should be flush with the roof. Being a flat plastic plate, this should be a very easy fix if one wants to make an open hatch. The side plates aren't too bad, but the lift hooks are molded on in very poor relief and should be replaced. There is an unidentified raised bump molded onto the left side wall that should be removed. The rear wall is the worst of the bunch, with hatches that are not only incorrectly shaped, but they are very poorly placed and don't even line up with each other! Again, the hatch thickness is raised outside the plate, when they should be flush when closed, so like the roof hatch, these should be carved off and replaced, which will make them easy to open up as well. Get good drawings showing where and how these hatches should be shaped.
The final parts on this sprue are for the storage bin that attaches to the engine deck. They are acceptable, though it appears there will be a lip around the bin lid, which should be sanded almost smooth with the sides of the box.
The lower hull and sides look very nice and are some of the best parts in the kit. No complaints here. While they are not as finely detailed as on Revell or Dragon kits, they are perfectly acceptable to me.
Now these two sprues of smaller details show a dichotomy of molding quality. The lower sprue of pioneer tools and other smaller hull details is really quite nice, and show probably the maximum quality achievable with limited-run technology. But the upper sprue is really quite poor. The gun is not even usable, and other parts on this sprue will need a lot of cleanup to be able to be used. Some of them we'd be better off scratchbuilding replacements.
There are a few unused parts on this sprue, looking like they belong to some other variant of the Pz. III. Not sure what are MW's future release plans, but it looks like we'll get something else based on the Pz. III chassis in the future. This sprue also contains early versions of the sprocket and idler wheels, and they are not too bad. The early sprocket was not seen on the StuIG 33, but there are a couple of photos showing some of them with the early idler wheel, so those will come in handy (such as for vehicle "G7" included with the decals in this kit).
And this sprue contains the later sprocket and idler wheels, along with all the road wheels. The late sprocket is one we should use on this vehicle, and possibly the late idlers, depending on which specific vehicle is being modeled. The road wheels are extremely poor, and I think when I saw those parts, that's what immediately colored my opinion of this kit. I don't consider them to be usable, though others may be willing to put in the time and effort needed to clean them up. One good thing I will say about the wheels though, is that they included two spare wheels, which is cool, since most of the photos I've seen of these vehicles show them to carry several spares each.
Now the tracks are very nicely made. I don't know how they can make parts this clean and detailed, and completely blow it on others. Anyway, I've shown both the front and rear faces of the tracks sprue, but be aware that only a single sprue is included in the kit.
There is only one marking scheme included, though it is not identified in the instructions. The "G7" and black and white crosses on the left side of the decal sheet are for a vehicle in the 201st Panzer Regiment, of the 23rd Panzer Division in southern Ukraine during the summer of 1943. However, the G7 markings are supposed to be black, not red. Keep in mind, if one wants to model G7, then you must use the early idler wheels included in the kit. However, there is a question in my mind about the front transmission inspection hatches. This kit has the later style hatch hinges as seen on the Stug III Ausf. E or F, so one can assume that it represents a vehicle converted from a Stug III E or F. However, the idler wheel style was changed from the early to late style with the Stug III Ausf. C. Therefore, one would not expect to see a StuIG 33 (or a Stug III for that matter) with both the early idler and late hatch hinges unless the idler wheels were field replacements for damaged parts. The only photo I have seen of G7 is not clear enough to see the hatch hinges, though you can definitely make out the early idler wheel. So, either this kit is incorrect by including the markings for G7, or else we can make the assumption that G7 was based on the Stug III E or F hull, but had replaced at least its right-side idler with an early style wheel.
The other markings on this sheet must be for the T-60 (whatever that is) because the decal sheet is labeled "StuIG 33/T-60".
So all in all, I don't think this is a horrible kit, I was just extremely disappointed with its molding quality. Perhaps I had too high of expectations for it that were simply not achievable with limited-run technology. It is interesting how a person can form initial impressions based on only a couple of things, for example when I saw the wheels in this kit, along with the rear wall to the fighting compartment (the two most egregious problems for this kit), I immediately labeled the kit in my mind as "junk". Yet when I sit down to write a detailed review, I realize that it's really not too bad, it just has some problem areas that need to be addressed, just like most other kits on the market today.
In my opinion, if one wants to make this kit into a really nice replica, you should completely replace the fighting compartment walls, taking the opportunity to open, or at least correct the crew hatches, and perhaps lengthening the compartment a bit to make it most accurate. Also, the road wheels need replacement, though that would likely mean sacrificing a Pz III or Stug III kit, since I don't think anybody markets replacement Pz III wheels. Some effort will be needed to clean up many of the smaller detail parts, but that's typical of a limited-run model.